The Productivity Paradigm with Richard Medcalf

Richard Medcalf is Founder and CEO of Xquadrant and an executive coach to some of the world’s most impressive and successful CEOs and their teams. He’s also the host of the Impact Multiplier CEO Podcast. In today’s show you can learn about:

  • The productivity paradigm and the infinity trap,
  • Why we don’t need a productivity hack, we just need a mindset shift.
  • Why many struggle to focus on higher-value tasks and prioritization.
  • How to kick start our strategic thinking.

Transcript: Thanks to Jermaine Pinto at JRP Transcribing for being our Partner. Contact Jermaine via LinkedIn or via his site JRP Transcribing Services

The Leadership Hacker News

Time is a valuable commodity that should not be wasted. A marketer is likely to be concerned with both time and money about the value they create. Luckily, plenty of thought leadership techniques are also available for those who do not mind spending time on their strategy, but don’t wish to spend a lot of money on marketing. Thought leadership is a leader’s best friend for promoting what they do. Recently I researched Services, a global thought leadership agency that focused on evidence-based research, published a list of techniques and ideas to help leaders in the space of thought leadership. And I’m just going to share with you the top four.

Be accessible. Thought leadership is about being visible. You can boost your visibility by making yourself accessible to others. Sharing your expertise freely and having your team do the same. Don’t be afraid to speak to media outlooks or bloggers or write articles. It can all help you get your brand out there and your message to the audience.

Always create content. Consistently creating content can take time, but it also can help you build an audience for your brand. Additionally, it can help you create more ideas, content creations is an excellent way to show that you’re aware of your industry. You’re aware of the news and you’re aware of what’s trending. This can really help you become an industry leader, become more renowned so that people can see your content and become familiar with who you are and what you stand for.

Hone your problem-solving skills. Problem solving is a life skill and one you should hone. It shows that you can identify, analyze, and solve a problem. It also shows that you are innovative and capable of being an industry leader and helping others solve problems with you, demonstrates credibility. Be a leader. Thought leadership is about being a leader in your industry. This means that you should express ideas and take action when the opportunity arises. While you shouldn’t strive to jump into every issue of controversy that abounds, you should also not be content to sit on the sidelines, particularly if it concerns your industry, it’s all about having balance. So don’t be afraid to try any these techniques for your thought leadership. It will cost you nothing. It might cost you a bit of time, but you’ll get loads of value, and you’ll learn along the way. So good luck with your thought leadership. That’s been the leadership hacking news, and we are looking forward to sharing more news as the weeks go by. So please let us know if there’s something specific, you’d like us to talk about.

Start of Podcast

Steve Rush: Joining me on today’s show is Richard Medcalf. He’s the Founder and CEO of Xquadrant. He’s an Executive Coach and coach some of the world’s most impressive and successful CEOs. He’s also the host of The Impact Multiplier CEO Podcast. Richard, welcome to the show.

Richard Medcalf: Hi Steve. It’s great to be here. Thank you for inviting me

Steve Rush: Looking forward to getting into the mindsets behind some of the work that you do and the work that Xquadrant do with you and your clients. But before we do that, we’d love to get the opportunity for our guests. Just give the bit of the backstory as to how you arrived doing what you do? So, tell us a little bit about Richard?

Richard Medcalf: Well, sure. Obviously talking about myself with my favorite subject. So, you’ve got a spare five-hour, strap in and we’ll, no, just kidding. So, my background is that I’m a bit of a strange hybrid. I like to describe myself sometimes as what you get. If you take a kind of a McKinsey Consultant, a slightly unorthodox pastor, and an entrepreneur, and you put them in a blender.

Steve Rush: That’s interesting.

Richard Medcalf: I’m a Brit’, but I’ve lived in France now for twenty-two years. My first role having studied Oxford, got my master’s degree there. My first role was in strategy consulting. I was asked by one of the partners in that firm to come over, to help him build out the Paris office for a year or two, sounded like a good idea. And then 22 years later, I’m still here. I married a lovely French lady and have kids and everything else. So that was how life evolved. I really enjoy strategy consulting; I think have a strategic brain naturally. And that all work really well. I became the youngest have a partner in that company, worked with a whole load of really interesting clients at board level, mainly the tech and telecom space. And then I was head hunted by Cisco, just at the point I’d been in the partner role for a couple of years. And I felt, you know, perhaps it was time to do something new and keep learning. And so, I joined Cisco, obviously a huge tech company. So, I became a smaller fish in a much bigger pond and cut a long story short after about 11 years again, I had a really interesting ride at Cisco. The last role was in a small team set up by Cisco CEO to really catalyze board level business initiatives with partners and customers. I’d like to describe it as fulfilling rash commitments made by the CEO in executive meetings.

Steve Rush: Which happens a lot, right?

Richard Medcalf: Yeah, so they both get excited about, you know, let’s do something together in enterprise, you know, Wi-Fi, or I don’t know, in internet of things or in the cloud or whatever the subject was, and they’d get like very excited and then we’d get the phone call to say, okay, there’s some excitement to the CEO level, but now you need to help these organizations find something in that space that is strategically meaningful, operationally feasible, and both sides actually want to do at the actually operational level. So, it was really interesting role. For various reasons though, I kind of started to think after a couple of years of that, you know, although it was a lot of fun, I was thinking, you know, what’s the legacy I really want to create in my career, in my life? What do I want to be telling my great-grandchildren when they’re on my knee? You know, at age 90 or whatever it is.

And I realized that although I love creating business results and I still love doing that. I didn’t just want to tell my great-grandchildren that I helped increase, you know, AT&T and EBITDA margin by north 0.5% or whatever, you know, that wasn’t quite enough. So, I decided to really look at what did I do really, really well, you know, what was my unique secret source? What’s the impact that I really wanted to make in the world? And I kind of came to the conclusion that what it was, was helping already competent successful leaders make an even bigger and more positive impact in the world. And to do that, you have to obviously make a bigger impact in your organization, in your people and on the mission that you’re there to create. And I think that was for me, the heart of it, was saying, you know, how can I actually help people who have already got a success formula that works really well as evidenced by their track record?

How can I help them reinvent that success formula and think strategically and get past their own fears, perhaps of change or of failure or of stretching too far to actually create the impact that they can make? And that’s really what sets me on fire today. And so, I set up Xquadrant a few years back, it’s basically a small boutique coaching and consulting practice where we help leaders generally often CEOs or Founders, or sometimes other C-suite members, generally of tech firms or firms going through a lot of technology, disruption and shifts. It really help them find what their next level of impact is going to be? And to do that, it’s always about thinking more strategically and operating more influentially and that’s it.

Steve Rush: Got it, yeah. So, the title Xquadrant, is there something in the name there?

Richard Medcalf: Yeah, there’s a few things in the name, obviously, apart from the fact that the domain name is available.

Steve Rush: So, it was a good start, right?

Richard Medcalf: Yeah, there’s a few things. So, you know, the first one is a bit of a, you know, a nod, right. Consultant’s love drawing two by two matrices and drawing an X in the top the top right corner to say, that’s where you need to be. And so first of all, it kind of speaks to ambition, right. The second one is, is often, insight is found when we realize that it’s not an either-or choice in front of us, but there’s perhaps a new option that allows us to do both things, right. So, you know, we either support our team or we challenge our team. Well, you know, what happens if we created an environment where we really support them with high support, but we also create really high challenge? Right. Suddenly something feels like an either or becomes a both and.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Richard Medcalf: And that is also kind of, if you like that X on that two by two represents to me. And the final reason for Xquadrant is, the X stands for multiplication. And this is really key for me. It’s easy in a sense to continually add value and play the game of being incremental, but I’m really interested in what does multiplication look like, right? How do we create an exponential curve for people? Where behind us, it looks flat and ahead of us, it looks vertical because we’re on such a curve, and that’s what excites me.

Steve Rush: I like that, really nice. So, when we are talking around exponential and matrices. From the last conversation you and I had, I’m going to be talking about a lot of execs get stuck in this productivity paradigm. So, tell us a little bit about what that really means and how I get out of it?

Richard Medcalf: Yeah, so the name I like to use for this paradigm is the infinity trap actually. So, the infinity trap is, you know, we live in a world of infinity, right. There’s an infinite number of tasks, of people, of content out there. So, there’s always more to do and we just can’t get through it, right. The more books we buy, the more recommendations on books we get, the more emails we reply to, the more emails we get back. It’s never ending, right. And so, we can’t use productivity to break out of that because you can’t defeat infinity with productivity. There’s always more to do. And so, the infinity trap, and I see it all around and is, just for people going, you know, I’m crazy busy or even I’m good busy, but people are so focused. They’re running, they are perhaps very clear on what they’re trying to achieve actually, but they’ve got their heads down trying to achieve it. And so, what happens is, they haven’t got enough time to think. They know they’re not really thinking about all the big issues around them. They’ve got tunnel vision, in fact. So, in a sense, they might be really focused, but perhaps they’ve even lost serendipity from their lives, lost a bit of randomness or lost a bit of contexts. So, it shows up in different people in different ways.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Richard Medcalf: But I think the infinity trap is really where we are running fast. It feels good. We kind of feel that we are making progress. We kind of feel that we are perhaps being the super leader in our organization and, you know, lifting things on our shoulders and everything else. And we know it kind of works in a sense, but actually progress is becoming incremental at this point.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Richard Medcalf: We can’t see it.

Steve Rush: However, I guess the flip side of that is, we still need to keep productive and improve productivity where we can. And I remember, again, from the conversation we had before, there aren’t any real productivity hacks. It starts with yourself, and it actually starts with shifting your mindset. From your experience what’s playing out there?

Richard Medcalf: Yeah, so obviously there are things we can do to kind of organize ourselves and do things differently and create an environment around us that’s conducive to the work we need to do and all those things, right. But I think the fundamental limits to all that are, it’s what we believe, right. It’s what we believe is necessary desirable or achievable, possible around things. It depends on the self-image we have, right. How do we achieve things? How do we get things done? Right. What has to be true for us to succeed? What is success? All these things actually shape us. So let me give you an example. A couple examples come to mind. Let me just start with this one. I was talking with an executive, just being promoted to board level in a seven-thousand-person firm. It’s pretty big firm and he’d got operations around twenty different countries.

And I was being asked to help him really onboard into this executive role, into the C-suite and maximize his impact as he does that. He was clearly a high performer. People loved him, but he knew he really wanted to play bigger game. And so, we identified together a couple of big transformational projects that he was going to champion throughout the business. Things that had never been done before on a global scale. And he was really going to move the needle. And he was very excited about this, and all the stakeholders were excited, and he was working on them and making some great progress. And then one day he came to me and said, you know, Richard, I’m just stuck in my email. I’m just like, I’m not getting enough time to work on these projects. They’re not going as fast as I wanted.

And so, I kind of asked him, well, why is that? You know, why are you spending so much time in your email? He says, well, you know, I just want to be a good team player. I want to be trustworthy and reliable. I don’t want to be the guy that people have to chase up. I don’t want to be that person, right. The one who never replies to emails, who is a bottleneck for everybody else, who’s not pulling their weight in the team. And indeed, he was a people person, right. He really wanted to do his best with people. And so, I stopped, and he was asking me for a tip, you know, Richard, what tips can you gimme about email? And I said, well, you know, if you’re coming to me for a tip, it’s probably a waste of your money, right. You can probably Google the tip, right. I don’t think that’s what you need from me. In fact, I can just tell you that whatever tip I did give you, you wouldn’t do anything with right now. I can’t help you on that level. And he was like, what do you mean you can’t help? I said, well, you’ve just told me that the reason you do your email and you spent so much time there is, because you want to be reliable and trustworthy and a team player. So, I’m not going to tell you to be an unreliable, untrustworthy, non-team player. You’re never going to buy it. So, he was like, ah, that’s a good point. So, I said, well, let try it another way. If the CEO was in the room with you, what would he be asking you for? He had to think, and he said, well.

Yeah, work on those big transformational projects. Because he’s really excited about the benefits that’s going to bring. Okay, what about the investors? What would they be asking for if you were in, one of those board meetings? Oh, well. I guess same thing I suppose, because that’s going to make a really big difference on our financials if we can shift the employee experience in this way, okay. What about the employers themselves then? What about the team? What do they most want you to be doing if they could be in this room with us right now? And he thought, he said, well, I guess the same thing, right? Richard, the same projects, because they’re sick and tired of the old ways of working and the inefficiencies that we’ve been working with.

And what about customers, if they could talk to us, what would they be telling us? And he said, well, they won’t know so much. Because it’s a bit of an internal project, transformation project, but I guess it’d be the same kind of thing. Because if the employees can focus less on internal admin, they can spend more time with the customers and solving customer issues. So, I said, okay, so at this point, you’re telling me, that all these different stakeholders really want you to focus us on these two or three transformational projects? Yeah, that’s right. Okay, so let me put it to you that you’re being untrustworthy, unreliable, and not a team player when you are busy getting to inbox zero, you know, and managing all these inbound requests. And at this point, you know, the penny drops, right. And he’s like, oh, you’re right. Like, this is not who I am anymore, right. I need to be playing a different game. And so, at that point he didn’t need me to tell him how to set up a filter in Gmail, right, or how to turn his notifications off. Although those things always help, right. I’m a strong believer in turning notifications off, right. I mean, these are proven things, but the key shift was in that identity, you know, thinking actually, what is the trustworthy and reliable thing for me to do?

Steve Rush: Yeah, and then choosing that right identity creates the right behaviors and beliefs that come with it, right?

Richard Medcalf: Yeah, exactly. I was working with somebody else, and he was explaining how he couldn’t possibly delegate to his team because things had to be done at certain level of quality and he wasn’t sure if his team was able to do it. So, I just kind of made up a concept on the fly and said, oh, so you’re telling me you’re being the high performing janitor. Then you want to be the high performing janitor, you know, wiping those floor tiles to perfection. Whilst there’s a business to be running. And again, he just a little aah. I know you’re right. Perhaps I’m focusing on doing low level tasks incredibly well.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Richard Medcalf: And perhaps not getting on into the messy business of working on the big issues.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Richard Medcalf: Which I’m not quite so certain on. And again, it’s these kinds of shifts that when you make this shift, then the productivity stuff finds its natural flow.

Steve Rush: And the story you just shared, ironically is not, you know, an isolated incident. You get a lot of people, certainly at the senior level, also getting drawn into those menial tasks.

Richard Medcalf: Certainty.

Steve Rush: From your perspective, then Richard, what would be the reason that many executives and this is not exclusive to executives by the way, this could be, you know, junior team leader, right the way through to senior executives. I think most people will struggle with this. What’s the reason we then struggle to prioritize in the right way typically?

Richard Medcalf: I mean, there’re actually a bunch of possible reasons, but I think some of the common ones are, yeah, number one is instant gratification and the comfort zone. Have things put in front of us that we deal with. So, you know, if you’re always getting notified by your email, then it’s easy just to deal with emails as they come. Because they give you instant gratification, right. It’s not the important work necessarily, but it’s some something. So, I think that’s part of it. I think the comfort zone is another, right. In other words, there are some areas that we know how to do pretty well, but those are probably areas which actually are not the cutting edge of the work that we need to do. But we do know that we add value when we do them.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Richard Medcalf: So, there’s a bit of fear. I may as well just do the things that I’m really good at, and I know that’s going to do some benefit, right. Rather than tackle this kind of other stuff, which I probably should be doing. But it’s a bit less clear and that’s really the third point is, ambiguity, right. We don’t often take the time to really define what are those high I value tasks? Right. If I had five minutes, how would I actually proceed on them? Once we can define how you’d spend five minutes, then it’s quite easy to do that five-minute task. But if it’s like, I’m just need to do some strategic thinking. Where to begin on that? Right. It’s really difficult. So, I that mixture of that kind of comfort zone, instinct gratification, and then this kind of fear and ambiguity on what are these higher value tasks that we want to be doing. But all those things play together

Steve Rush: And there’s some chemical reactions that go on with us as individuals that happen there. This is not kind of an instinct. That instant gratification, and it gives us that dopamine rush. It makes us feel good in that moment. And therefore chemically, we’re also drawn to those quick hits rather than the other chemical reactions that come with uncertainty and fear and challenge that can sometimes hold us back as well, right.

Richard Medcalf: Yeah, exactly. So, it’s also important to try to hack those emotions a little bit, right. And celebrate when you start to feel those, right. I’ve defined something that was a bit ambiguous, like give yourself a fist pump, right. Actually, reward yourself for making a dent in those ambiguous fluffy areas that are actually the important ones.

Steve Rush: Yeah, and you mentioned strategic thinking there as part of that kind of role that we all have and strategic thinking’s quite overplayed in my experience. I’d love to get your spin on this, by the way. So, for me, strategic thinking is just about thinking about what we don’t know yet and thinking about what we don’t know, that we can then translate to what we actually do know. And again, role agnostic, whether you are a junior team leader or a C-suite executive, it’s all of our responsibilities to think that way. What’s your experience about how strategic thinking plays out in our workplace, these days?

Richard Medcalf: Yeah, I mean, you’re right. I mean, there’s a couple of ways you can look at strategic thinking, right. For me, strategic thinking actually is a laser, right. Or it’s a lens, right. For me, it’s a lens that focuses us in, right. So where do we put our focus and our attention? What are the subjects where we need to focus? So that’s part of it. And I think the other part is the more diffuse one, as you said, which is like, what is it in the environment? What are the factors that I’m not, that we’re not folding in at this point? And I think those are both important ways to look at it, right. But I mean, but for me the most pragmatic way or most is to think about, there’s a book I called The One Thing. And it’s quite a helpful question they ask, which is, you know, what’s the one thing that if we were to achieve that would make everything else easier or more relevant?

Steve Rush: That’s a great question, isn’t it?

Richard Medcalf: And I think just focusing on that, so what’s the one thing right now that we most need to do? Right. I think that’s just a really simple way of thinking about this.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Richard Medcalf: And the answer to that lens, right, that focus. My particular angle on strategic thinking is, I suppose I kind of call it exponential leadership, right. So, I’m always thinking, you know, how do we multiply impact rather than add value? How do we multiply value, not add value? How do we multiply things? And the way to think about that is, what’s the constraint, right? Where is the constraint in the system in which we’re operating at the moment? There’s pretty more than we can get into right now on that and exactly all the constraints, but for example, we have limited time, we have limited attention, we have limited resources, you know, there are kind of things.

We might have limited ambition, right. I need to understand, like what frustrate me personally, as a leader and also in the organization. And again, the goal here is to find, what’s the one area that if we were to address and improve would allow all this whole system, this business, for example, to kind of expand up to the next level of impact or to the next level of results? And for me, that’s kind of the question. So, it’s about rather than just turning the handle on the machine, it’s trying to step back and look at the machine we’ve built and think about, you know, what’s the one thing that’s holding back performance? Just a little point on that. If people are interested in this idea of exponential leadership and moving from a more of an incremental, to more of a multiplicative mindset, I’ve actually written a short email series is about, I think, six emails and people on my newsletter have just been going through them. And I think I’ve had more feedback on that one email series than anything else I’ve ever written. So, it’s really resonating with people, it’s called The Exponential Leadership Principles. And it walks through, you know, these different constraints and what and do to overcome them. If people are interested, they can just go to is a simple way for them to find their way there from this podcast.

Steve Rush: We also make sure that links in the show notes, because as you said, it’s just a simple process that gets people to think and reflect, and that’s half the challenge, isn’t it with strategic thinking? It’s giving yourself the capacity, the time that you need to be thoughtful about what it is you’re doing.

Richard Medcalf: Yeah, it could because just one insight can change anything, right. One insight can certainly make us see the world in a new way, see the options we have differently. See, what’s not working, that we’re spending so much time on or whatever it is. And so often it’s just encountering new ideas, new people, having new conversations that opens us up, right. To get onto a different trajectory.

Steve Rush: Yeah, absolutely right. Yeah. Now you managed to interview some of the world’s largest CEOs on The Impact Multiplier Podcast. And it’s really interesting to dive into, I’ve listened to quite a few of your episodes now, and they all bring different perspectives and different stories, but there are still some commonalities. And I’m sure you find, as I do with many of our guests, that there are some common themes. From your perspective in having those conversations, Richard, what would you say is the maybe the most common challenge that keeps representing itself in and amongst these CEOs and Executives?

Richard Medcalf: Yeah, I’ve seen this. Yeah, right on the podcast and in my own work with these kinds of leaders. Actually, there’s a couple of things on trends. I mean, a bonus point, I’d almost say one of the things I’ve really seen as a success component actually is a theme, you know, is (A) genuinely being interested in people, right. And (B) really thinking about creating structures that multiply in fact, right. I interviewed some of the CEOs of the fastest growing companies in Europe and in the U.S. and like their common refrain was how they pushed down decision making responsibility, created independent little entities, you know, and empowered leaders who could build their own subparts of the business, and really, really interesting. In terms of the challenges. I mean, I suppose what I really see is, I think there’s an internal challenge actually in a lot of people, which is even at that level, it’s about confidence and imposter syndrome and all those things that’s always there. There is that kind of focus challenge of getting out the weeds. I think, you know, they all say, you know, my next level is going to involve me living behind even more operational tasks, right. Trusting in my team, even more. Focusing, even more on some of the new areas, perhaps it’s, you know, it’s an acquisition plan they want to roll out or whatever it is. And so, continuing to get out the weeds and focus on higher level tasks. And the third one is, that one around nailing the critical conversations. So, you know, leadership is delivered one convers and at a time, and you can have all the plans and strategies you want, but actually just slowing down to master that one conversation with that one report, that one stakeholder, whoever it is, perhaps bringing them on board to what you’re trying to achieve is really important. And so, I think perhaps those three areas that, you know, be in a game of confidence, the kind of higher-level activities and those critical conversations would be the three themes that I see come up.

Steve Rush: Awesome. Yeah, good. And delighted you share those now, however, I’m going to turn the tables a bit and hacking to your top thinking and your top tips for the future. And I know we think about tips and hacks and ideas. People kind of have this different perspective about what they mean. And in essence, hacking for me is just shorting into your great thinking. So, if you think about your career as a leader and what you do now, if you had to kind of get them into your top three tips or hacks, what would they be?

Richard Medcalf: Number one would be play the long game, which means they’ll always be so transactional, right. It’s easy to kind of get transactional and just focus on the thing in front of you, but, you know, build relationships for the long term. Think about where you want to be, you know, a little bit longer than the next year or the next quarter. Play the long game, right. And build relationships that last, right. So that’d be number one. The second one would be, go in the direction of your discomfort. See the discomfort zone is where you learn, that’s where you grow and therefore treat imposter syndrome as a feature and not a bug. In other words, when you’re feeding imposter syndrome, it generally means that your confidence is lagging your competency, in fact and it also means that you are actually playing a bigger game, right. You’re pushing yourself; you are seeking to add more value and as a result, it feels a little bit uncomfortable. So, I think that second one, go in the direction of your discomfort.

Steve Rush: I love that.

Richard Medcalf: And then, I think the third one would be, I guess it comes back to what I talked about earlier is, focus on the key constraint, think about multiplication and not addition. Goes back to that email of course, I mentioned. Goes back to that thinking around yeah. How do I stop just using my time, doing the same tasks, time and time again? And how do I invest my time?

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Richard Medcalf: To remove constraints

Steve Rush: Three fantastic hacks. I particularly love the idea of playing the long game. I guarantee many people listening to this will be going, ah, because we often don’t think long game. We think, you know, this quarter, this year, next year, but actually it’s all part of the long game, isn’t it?

Richard Medcalf: Yeah, it’s what I said. I thought about, where do I want to be when I’m 90?

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Richard Medcalf: One thing I love to ask my clients, you know, is what’s so important to you that you have to 100 X it? What really matters, right? What do you really want a 100 X? So, for me, for example, wouldn’t it be amazing if I got a 100 X, you know, the number of leaders who really point to me as a real catalyst for the impact that they’ve had in the world, right. As somebody who’s really helped them a 100 X their impact. So, I’m on a mission, you know, I said, let’s actually do that for a hundred leaders, right. Let’s actually a hundred X the impact of a hundred leaders, that’d be a fantastic legacy. So that’s what I’m excited about, but play the long game, think about, what would that 25-year vision be? What would be bring a silly grin to your face? Because it’s so exciting, get a bit embarrassing. Because you’re not sure how you’re going to do it.

Steve Rush: Yeah. My unconscious thinking though, is just worrying and ticking as I’m thinking about my own long game. So, I’m hoping that it’s inspiring our listeners in the same way. Next part of the show, Richard, we call Hack to Attack. So, this is affectionately where we dive into something in your life or work that has not worked out as you’d planned, could have been a complete catastrophe. It could have been a minor hiccup, but as a result of that event, it’s now serving you well as a learning in your life or work, what would be your Hack to Attack?

Richard Medcalf: Yeah, I think when I look at my time at Cisco, I think there was a period at that time and perhaps it was okay. It was just life. There was a bit of a time in that 10-year period where I think I stagnated a little bit I, my kids were very young. I was in my comfort zone, shall we say, right. So, I was delivering, I was performing, people like my work, but I think I had not necessarily growing and not necessarily increasing my impact for a period. And looking back, I felt that’s a bit of a missed opportunity because just like putting money in the bank, you know, things compound over time, right. If you want to play an exponential game, things compound over time. One example that’s recently come to my mind is, you know, dominoes, right. If you lineup dominoes and you knock the first one over, it can knock over another domino, that’s 50% bigger than itself. And then that one can knock over another domino that’s 50% bigger and that’s again, exponential, right. And so, I think I got into a time at Cisco where my dominoes were all the same size, shall we say, right?

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Richard Medcalf: And it was okay. But I think that also started to kind of, I got to a think at a stage where I realized that perhaps I’d missed some opportunities and again, I had a good career, right. Good thing, and I got into this amazing team that was, you know, reporting to the CEO. And so, it wasn’t a bad moment, but I think within that, before I got into that team, there was a phase where perhaps I wasn’t making the most opportunities that I’ve been presented with. Wasn’t my eye on the ball. And so, I think that’s something I’ve really thought about now is, invest in myself, you know and reinvent. I think probably reinvent is probably the best word, right. So, I always say to people, what’s your Madonna moment? You know, Madonna who, you know, turns up and she’s like, we got a new style and, you know, whatever it is or any other rock band or pop star, who’s been around for a long time. And most of them have had moments where they’ve reinvented themselves and they’ve changed things up.

Steve Rush: That’s right, yeah.

Richard Medcalf: And I did when I left Cisco, you know, I changed things up. And it’s worked really, really well. And I think continuing to reinvent ourselves, not to leave things behind actually. We think we are leaving things behind, but we don’t, we just build upon them, right. And we add to ourselves, we become more multifaceted, and I think that’s what I would say. So, reinvent ourselves.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Richard Medcalf: Get stuck.

Steve Rush: Cool. Now the last part of the show, we’ve affectionately become used to giving our guests some time to do some time travel. And you get to go and bump into Richard at 21 and give him some words of wisdom. What would your advice to Richard at 21 be?

Richard Medcalf: I think, I’d say read self-development books. Invest in yourself more, generally, never be scared of investing in yourself. Don’t always wait for your company to do the investing in yourself and always be wary of the comfort zone. And I kind of knew that in some ways. But I think all those things I kind of learned more and more over time. Yeah, so now I invest in myself more than, you know, more than ever by orders a magnitude. I remember when I was in the corporate world, I was invited to go to a conference by a friend who’s running the conference. I knew it was going to be a really, really good conference, but I didn’t go because I had to pay for like a 200 Euro, you know, Eurostar ticket or something, right. The company wasn’t going to pay. And so, I said, oh, I’m not going to go then, and ridiculous right. I mean, and nowadays I write checks for, you know, five figure checks, right. I wrote check for $25,000, the other day for my own self development, right. Because it’s so important.

Steve Rush: Yeah.

Richard Medcalf: And yet, you know, there I was in a well pay corporate job and even spending a few hundred euros, seemed like a bit of an ask. It’s completely ridiculous. So, investing ourselves is the best investment we can make.

Steve Rush: Great advice. So, what’s next for Richard and Xquadrant then?

Richard Medcalf: Well, there’s quite a few things. This year we’re kicking off a CEO mastermind group. I’ve got a group of really, really incredible CEOs. Some of them are running kind of startups, scale up. Some of them got million-dollar companies in the U.S. and in Europe and other places around the world. And we’re creating that community, which is really, really exciting because, you know, iron sharpens iron, right. You know, you get these really impressed, capable leaders together, often of whom they don’t get enough of that peer input. And that’s really exciting group. And then I’m also doing another program for kind of the slightly lower-level leaders as well, but another kind of community for them called Xquadrant Core. We kicked off the first session of that a couple of weeks ago. And that was a really strong start as well. So, there’s a couple of kind of programs I’ve been up to. And moreover, what I’m focused on is that mission right. Of helping a hundred top leaders multiply their impact by a hundred. That’s what gets me out me of bed.

Steve Rush: Yeah, awesome. And if we want to connect our audience with you beyond today, we know we’ve got that one link that we shared a little earlier, but where’s the best place for us to send them?

Richard Medcalf: Yes, absolutely. So obviously, if you go to, that’s going to be a blog post. You can sign up at the bottom to my email and newsletter, The Xquadrant Insider, which is where basically once a month, I talk about something around this whole idea of multiplying impact. And you can deep dive into different topics if you’re interested at that point. The podcast you mentioned as well, right. The Impact to Multiplier CEO Podcast where I interview some really interesting business leaders. And people are always happy to look me up on LinkedIn. Just if you send me an invitation request, just customize your message so that I know why you’re connecting and where you found me. And I’m always happy to have a conversation, right. Because play the long game, build interesting relationships with interesting people, add value and generally good things come back to you over time when you take that approach

Steve Rush: And we’ll help people play that long game by making sure those links are in our show notes as well.

Richard Medcalf: That’s perfect.

Steve Rush: Richard, I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you and looking forward to you and I working together in the future. And I’m really looking forward to letting our audience find out a little bit more about the work that you do and explore some great things together. Thanks for being part of our leadership packet community Richard.

Richard Medcalf: You’re welcome. It’s been fantastic.

Steve Rush: Thanks very much.


Steve Rush: I want to sign off by saying thank you to you for joining us on the show too. We recognize without you, there is no show. So please continue to share, subscribe, and like, and continue to get in touch with us with the great new stories that we share every week. And so that we can continue to bring you great stories, please make sure you give us a five-star review where you can and share this podcast with your friends, your teams, and communities. You want to find us on social media. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter @leadershiphacker, Leadership Hacker on YouTube and on Instagram, the_leadership_hacker and if that wasn’t enough, you can also find us on our website leadership-hacker.comTune into next episode to find out what great hacks and stories are coming your way. That’s me signing off. I’m Steve Rush, and I’ve been your Leadership Hacker.

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